A student gives me feedback in 2011

Boston waterfront

I’m someone who once described himself in an interview for a teaching position as “a feedback machine”. Yeah, feedback is pretty important to me. You might say it’s the central concern (in a shoshin kind of way).

It’s what propels me: during my first several years teaching I racked up 10,000 posts on a teacher’s forum, often describing classroom situations and asking for advice. As a member of an advisory board, I advocated for a system of semiformal peer-observations to replace a PD structure based on off-site seminars. Later, I went and found a job on a training course where giving feedback is my primary function. Of course I also pore over course feedback, and sometimes even bother former trainees for something extra by email later on.

Oh, and I also tend to beg for comments towards the end of each post on this blog!

Well, I was just going through old emails and came across a message from a student in 2011. I don’t remember it, but apparently I’d requested feedback and this student responded. I’m thrilled that I’d forgotten – presto! loss of memory = instant organic “estrangement device” (a Leo van Lier term I think?).

I don’t even quite remember which language center I was teaching at at the time (I had classes at a few, overlapping). All I know is it was in Boston, my beloved hometown and home to alotta language centers!

will-hunting-fb

See the message from my student below, and a few thoughts from me after.

Hi Matthew,

These are my opinions about you, class and everything…

You:

Your teaching system or style is very useful and suitable for me. You  intervene immediately who makes a mistake. This is very instructive… And also your examples are very clear. It’s always made sense. do not have a lot to say about you. Everything is perfect about you…?

Class:

Our classmates is very funny, but I’m thinking that some of our friend(s) are not eligible for Advance class. Maybe he/she belongs to upper-int class (I’m not specialist about teaching English ), but I’m sure that: not Advanced. In fact, sometimes we are getting slow down. It’s not good for me because the class is 4 weeks. We’re in second week, so I have just 2.5 weeks. I think we should we give to classes more speed than last week.

Some of our friend very funny… I like it… But sometimes he talking too much more than enough. So, my attention is broken down (sometimes). Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t complain to somebody…but Please keep short this idle time…

 My Expectations :

Please more and more grammar… Please more homework (include writing and reading) a little stronger than this. *please to control our homeworks*…

Everything almost perfect. Thank you so much.

 Best,

 A*****

Thoughts:

  • I’m pleasantly surprised to find this student describing my provision of immediate oral corrective feedback, and evaluating it as “useful and suitable” for them. 
  • I’m always a bit irked when student feedback goes in the “you’re perfect!” direction. I don’t need flattery, I need feedback! (I do like the “everything almost perfect” comment at the end) 🙂
  • The student is keenly aware of group dynamics in their classroom, as well as the importance of their own learning goals…and is quite nicely politic about how other learners may be harming their chances of achieving them. This is the bit that is most important to me: did I pay enough attention to this? did I pitch and manage the class content and challenge effectively? what did I do, if anything, to address this after receiving this feedback? 
  • They were clearly a highly motivated student, asking for more homework. As I type this and reflect, very vague memories are coming up: I think I may have responded by giving this specific student more homework? I may have even taken a few minutes with them after class to discuss it, and their progress towards their individual goals! But I can’t be sure. 
  • What I’m sure about it that having this chance to reflect in this way worthwhile. 

How often do you look back at old student feedback (whether intentionally or not!?). What do you do with it? Do you collect feedback from students only at the end of a session, or also halfway through? I’m glad I seemed to have done so halfway through here (especially *if* I was as responsive as I imagine I might have been ;P).

feedback

GIF: yetischool.com

As for me, I now have the makings of an action plan for the next time I teach a course: design (or adapt) a systematic tool for collecting regular student feedback. Yet again, I’m reminded: feedback is where it’s at!

I haven’t breached any insights here, or really challenged any beliefs with this simple post I’m sure. More than anything else, I just wanted to share the beauty of that students’ thoughts and writing. But I’d really love to hear any thoughts you might have on this topic that might have come to mind.

Pllleeeaaasssse? 😉

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6 thoughts on “A student gives me feedback in 2011

  1. Hi Matthew,

    I liked this a lot. I get a lot of questionnaires from students. Often the feedback is ‘teach like this, please’. I often take this feedback and see how/if I can accommodate it. Sometimes I just have to play the ‘my teaching, my choice, your learning, your choice’ card. I’m interested is student feedback but sometimes students will say something, usually negative, to give you something they expect you want to hear. I’d say tread with care.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interestingly enough in Japan I’ve never gotten the “teach more grammar please” one. I have done quantitative feedback in the form of surveys at my own school since 2010 or so, and the main takeaways were “we don’t like singing” and “single page hwk on a topic discussed in class is best”. In university my favorite comments ever were “this is foolish” and “stop reading our shirts”.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ll be straight: I love this post. From “shoshin” & “estrangement device” (every day is a school day, yes), through “you, class and everything…”, to the YetiSchool visual.

    Now, feedback is a strange beast. The quantitative, i.e. ‘fill-in-whichever-form’, gives a rough idea of sentiment, but sometimes leads to the flattery-type responses (and no, that’s certainly not what we’re looking for); the qualitative – self-/peer-/teacher-led & objective-based, brings forward the specifics and probably multiplies time dedicated to prep & delivery by a zillion? if, that is, you have (or cultivated) determined, motivated learners; if you don’t, you’re just adding to your things-to-address list. And there’s the on the fly feedback, my favorite kind: the clenching fingers, the jittering , the sideways looks and smirks.

    It seems to me that we need all of those combined if we are to concretely know how learners perceive, work with and assess our courses. Yes to all, and yes to a solid action plan for feedback. Mine is in reverse order, actually; pick-up-as-we-go, then (or simultaneously) qualitative and quantitative last (and that very little, I admit).
    Would you share when you’ve decided upon that ‘systematic tool’? 🙂

    Thank you for offering this insight, Matthew.

    CC

    Like

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